Many people wish that their smile was a little whiter and brighter. They hope that the staining that has built up over the years will be reduced or even eliminated. Teeth whitening strips are touted as a low-cost, effective way of achieving this. There’s no doubt that they can work well, and are certainly a better option than a random tooth-whitening kit of dubious origins bought online, but using strips has a few significant drawbacks that you need to be aware of.
How Teeth Whitening Strips Work
Teeth whitening strips are made from a flexible plastic substance coated in a thin layer of whitening gel, which will usually contain either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. When you apply the strips to your teeth, the gel is pressed against the surface and held in place, allowing it to penetrate the tooth and begin its lightening work. The strips are applied daily over a period of two to three weeks.
Although at first glance this seems like an ideal, low-cost route to a whiter smile, there are three significant problems involved. These aren’t insurmountable difficulties, but they’re ones you should know about if you want to use strips safely and effectively.
Risk of Uneven Whitening
However carefully you place the strips, the fact is that a strip is a two-dimensional surface applied to a three-dimensional tooth. There are always going to be places where the strip isn’t in full contact with the tooth. With luck and careful application, you won’t leave the same spots uncovered each time, but over the course of a treatment any areas of your teeth that aren’t properly covered will not be as whitened. At best, this will give uneven results, but at worst you may be left with unsightly yellow edges to your teeth which are very noticeable.
Danger of Gum Problems
The bleaching agent in teeth whitening strips, while not as powerful as the ones dentists use, is still a harsh chemical which can damage the soft tissues of your gums. It’s essential to avoid contact between the whitening agent and your gums wherever possible, although this is easier said than done. Consider using scissors to cut the strip to more closely match your smile, although the balance between covering your teeth fully while keeping the gel clear from the gums is a difficult one to get right every time.
Tooth Sensitivity and Possible Damage
Although strips are safe to use in moderation, overdoing it can cause sensitivity and even permanent damage to your teeth. If the layer of enamel is eroded through excessive application of whitening agent, you will not only suffer pains, but risk decay and other problems which in the worst case could end in tooth loss. Never prolong the treatment longer than recommended, and be sure your teeth are in good condition with no cavities or gum disease before starting out.
Should You Use Whitening Strips?
Whitening strips can be an effective way of improving the appearance of stained or yellow teeth, but the possible problems above should give you pause for thought before deciding to start using them. Having a course of professional whitening treatment from your dentist, or even having dental veneers fitted, will provide better long term results with much lower risks, but the cost will be a little higher. If you do decide to start using whitening strips, it’s an excellent idea to visit your dentist for a thorough check-up and a little advice before beginning.